Zack Umstead, Young Writer

July 13, 2012


Filed under: Shorts — Zack @ 1:39 PM

I wrote this short story a few weeks back for a contest on a great blog called Teens Can Write, Too! Unfortunately, I didn’t win, but I figured “Hey, why not share it on the blog?” A little detail, though: the contest required the pieces to be around 200 words, and the prompt was “Beginnings”. Trust me, I would’ve loved to write more than 200 on this particular piece. But, due to those constraints, I cut it down to this, which I titled “Spark”. Enjoy!


“The end is nigh!”

The man stood in Times Square with his basic cardboard sign. The word ‘repent’ was scribbled across it in black Sharpie. His companion a few yards away carried a professionally printed sign and handouts, which he was currently attempting to force into the hands of a man in his late thirties. The man politely declined and tipped his derby hat at the owner of the cardboard sign. He then straightened his tie and walked off.

William’s hat had caused a few beads of sweat to form on his head, and his wrinkled brow allowed them to coalesce. The liquid was suddenly shaken loose as he allowed himself to chuckle at the irony of being told the world would soon end. William didn’t need flyers to tell him what to do — he was going to do it.

Today was the beginning of the end of this imperfect world, and William had the honor of being the spark for the fire. Soon, his companions would continue the work of ending this world and building the utopia that humanity desperately needed.

But William would never see this future. He walked to an officer writing a ticket for an illegally parked painter’s van. “Is there a problem?” he asked in his thick Welsh accent.

“Yeah, this van shouldn’t be ‘ere. What’s it gotta do with you?”

“Well, that happens to be my van.”

“Is it? Well, ‘ere’s your ticket.” He ripped the slip off his pad and handed it to William.

“Cheers.” William reached into his pocket and flipped the switch.


July 2, 2012

Finding Time to Write During Summer Vacation

Filed under: Tips for Teens — Zack @ 1:10 PM
Tags: , , , ,

I can say this with complete certainty – if you are a high school student and reading this post right now, you are on summer vacation, and chances are you’re probably a little bored (I know I am). So what to do with the oodles of time you now have in your day? Well write, of course!

But I know it’s not quite that easy. There are summer camps, family vacations, and friends to hang out with. Sometimes, these can be quite hard to juggle. As much as you don’t like to admit it, though, you do have some small gaps between events, and these gaps can be when your best ideas come to you. If you have your phone with you, jot it down in that. Or if you prefer the more traditional method, keep a pen and paper handy. Then, when an idea comes to you, you won’t forget it.

Now we’ve got an idea for a story. See, that wasn’t that hard! Now comes quite possibly the hardest part – expanding upon it. An idea can sound great, and you might be able to write a thousand words about it, but without a full plot, it won’t go anywhere. You need to think of secondary characters, backstory, and the range of emotions you want your readers to feel. Is it humorous? Or serious? Or will you try to combine the two, knowing when to use one and not the other? All of these things and more need to be thought of. Most of all, make this a book you would want to read. If you would read it, then there is some random stranger who would read it, too.

I find the best time to expand on an idea is on a Thursday night with a cold glass of milk nearby (2% milk, of course). This will be different for everybody. Find a time when your creativity flows and use it to take your idea to the next level.

So now what we have is a full plot arc, planned out so that you know exactly what you want happening when. Now what? Now you write! Sit down at your computer and find some music fitting the mood of the scene you’re writing. I listen to Foo Fighters while writing an action scene and Incubus when writing the introduction of a new character. Again, find what works for you – just don’t listen to metal while writing a tender love scene, I guarantee that won’t work out too well. When you have your music, let the words flow out of you. If you find a sentence that could use some revision, but you’re three paragraphs ahead, go back and revise that sentence. It will often help to form better sentences going forward.

The most important part of the writing process is not to let your outline rule you. If you want to end a chapter differently, then do it. Go ahead, introduce a new minor character. Just don’t make any huge changes, like a new major character or plot twist, without first consulting your outline to make sure it fits. It is absolutely key to not lose sight of where your story is going; without that, it’s a runaway train waiting for a derailment.

Oh, did I mention have fun? Well have fun! You’re writing a story, and this is your story. You can do whatever you want with it, and your English teacher can’t do a thing to stop you (just please use proper grammar). This should be a fun project to do in your free time, not something to take over your summer. If you become stressed out, then stop. Take a break, then come back. Are you happier? Then the story will be better.

Now, it’s time for me to go put these into action. Yes, I’ll be writing this summer. Expect some new pieces from me soon…

Your favorite 14 years 319 day-old author,

Zack Umstead

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